Well hello sunshine. It’s a bright and happy week outside and the sky is clear and calm. Which makes me feel a bit calmer too. I’ve been keeping busy doing quizzes with family and friends, experimenting with air dry clay and of course sewing. It is still rather difficult to know what to make but I’m managing to keep going. My Plum dress is a good example of that!
Sometimes you gave to be bold and challenge yourself to try a shape you wouldn’t normally wear/make. When Ana’s call went out for testers, my hand shot up. I like checking pattern instructions and testing construction so I miss that part of my old job. That’s why I also checked some patterns for the recent Sewing Bee book.
Plum is extremely loose and floaty babydoll but features fun frill sleeves with an interesting construction and a charming buttoned back bodice. I’d had success with the similarly roomy Indigo dress so was intrigued by the drop shoulder detail on Plum.
The dress us unlined so very quick to put together (perfect for beginners) but I was slowed down trying to figure out the fit. I ended up with a size 2 in the upper body, size 1 in the lower body. It’s a smidge tight in the biceps… I use that term loosely as I don’t have any! So perhaps a 3 in that area would have been best. The size 1 has oodles of space for my 45″ hips so it’s nice and breezy.
This polka dot visvose challis fabric was a present from Marie from Birmingham rag market. We both bought it in 2014 (I think) but I managed to rip mine. So sweet Marie sent me hers as a bonus treat when I recently shopped her stash. I found some adorable flower buttons to finish the placket and used blue bias tape around the neckline.
I made my version before the neckline was altered on the final pattern but knew it was being lowered so trimmed it down to be a close match. I hemmed to just above the knee so I didn’t feel swamped.
The husband approves of how floaty it is but I’m hyper aware of the frills when I wear it. My fear of ruffles continues!! It’s a great working from home dress for definite.
See the other tester versions and buy the pattern here to make your own version!
Hello lovely people. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… Easter weekend I was due to go to a fun dinner with my extended family to celebrate my Auntie’s big birthday. Alas it was cancelled for obvious reasons. I’d already made the dress so I’m getting around to sharing it now.
Butterick 6446 has been in my stash for a while. I first tried the pattern last March with my celestial gold mesh fabric but the stiffness of the glitter meant the folds on the bodice didn’t sit flat. But flash forward to Feb 2020 and we have a winning fabric + pattern combination.
Enter Wow Fabrics. They offered me the chance to join their blogger network after I left Love Sewing. You might have noticed I had dialled back on all those kinds of partnerships for a while but now it’s great to be collaborating again! You might remember my sweatshirt made with their interesting scuba like base. I like to try a company once before committing to ongoing partnerships. They let me print 3 metres of fabric for free to test the site and fabric quality. I’m always honest in reviews so you don’t have to worry about that. I can’t comment on delivery times as my fabric was de-prioritised behind real orders which I think is absolutely fair when I wasn’t paying and wasn’t in a rush.
I printed my own star design on the bubble crepe which has a lovely pebble texture and slight spandex stretch. The shade of blue I was able to achieve is perfect! I had saved so many azure/turquoise/cyan with white polka dot dresses on Pinterest and now I have my own to wear. It’s totally opaque too which is really important for me.
I like Wow Fabrics because the range of base fabrics they have are quite interesting. The upload process when printing your own design might not be as helpful and explicit in the instructions as other ‘print your own fabric’ companies but it still works if you’ve prepped your swatch right. For beginners it might be scary so definitely use the A4 sample option!!
I cut a 12 at the upper bodice grading to the size 16 ish at the waist (I only had the smaller size pack so got inventive). You might have noticed a couple of alterations to the base design. Because I had 3m, the ruffle was cut out at the end when I was sure I had enough for the dress. I cut the tissue for skirt version B then made a ruffle using the offcut tissue marking up 20cm from hem line D. I also added little cap sleeves from New Look 6808 for some extra coverage.
The fit of this dress can look a little odd as it crosses over the bust rather than under it. This makes for more modest coverage which is nice. But be aware the under bodice wrap may stick to your bra and wiggle out of place. Wearing a slip helps me but I should have perhaps lined the bodice in something silky rather than self fabric.
I overlocked everything and used a concealed zipper in the back. I was lucky enough to have the perfect thread and zipper colours in my stash so could get started right away. It sewed up pretty quickly so I tried to take regular breaks to slow down.
While its a lovely dress I’m not sure if I’ll make it again. The bodice moves around a little too much for me to keep an eye on but the skirt is fabulous. Maybe I’ll mash it with another bodice soon! If you’ve made this dress please let me know in the comments.
Designing your own version of this print
I went on a fabric design course a few years back, I have also ordered custom fabric before and I am quite confident in Adobe Photoshop (fyi this is a paid for product). To ease myself back in I decided to start simple with a repeating star print using the polygon shape tool. My tips below are for people who have already had a go with Photoshop so I don’t go into explicit detail about the settings. This is beginner level stuff though so have a play!
I think a lot of people forget scale when designing fabric so to avoid a print that’s too ditsy, try a minimum of a 15x15cm frame aka 1772x1772pixels. It has to be 300dpi (dots per inch). That’s print quality: it doesn’t matter how good something looks on your monitor! And if you can print it out when you’re done and hold it on your body to check you like the scale.
Another common habit is people add a single beautiful motif to the middle of the square and end up with a very regimented tile that looks a bit like checked fabric. The offset filter is the easiest way to avoid that.
Make a star print like mine as follows: With guides visible on the screen add some star shapes around the middle of frame (I don’t try to be symmetrical but the overall spread of shapes around the centre point should be balanced).
Merge all the shape layers and then duplicate so you have two versions of shapes and one colour background. Then apply the offset filter – Filter> Other> Offset with 886 pixels in each box (half the height and width). That will split one layer into perfect quarters and place in the frame corners.
After that, go back in and add more shapes to the surrounding areas, again in a non symmetrical pattern making sure to cross the guides and avoid shapes disappearing off the edges. Keep the same density of shapes you had at the start.
Merge layers then go to Edit> Define pattern > give it a name. Make a new file to test your pattern. It should be at least 100x100cm. Go to Edit> Fill> Use Pattern and select your pattern from the drop down. Use the existing settings.
Do you like what you see? If you need to make tweaks, unmerge the layers on your tile and move add shapes before merging again and defining a new pattern.
So before I get started with my blog post, I have an IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! On April 25th 7:30pm (BST) I’ll be co-hosting the Pyjama Pictionary Party with Marie of A Stitching Odyssey. This is a YouTube live stream on my channel where we’ll chat handmade pyjamas, you can ask us anything you’ve always wanted to know and then we’ll quiz your sewing knowledge with a themed game of Pictionary! PLUS we’ve gathered 9 amazing raffle prizes which we’ll draw at the end of the night.
I love a classic pyjama. They make me think if Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert… I could go on. They’re best slightly oversized with contrast piping, and occasionally a monogrammed pocket. Now despite loving pyjamas, I’ve blogged only a couple of the pairs I’ve made! You can see my McCall’s 6659 here and why not check out my YouTube video on adding piping to the Closet Case Carolyn top here.
This set was dreamed up while I was sick last Easter. I mean, really really unwell. Like crying in pain unwell. So… I’m lying on the sofa and Jimi brings me a present from my dearest Sewing Wife Marie. 3m of crazy cat fabric to make me feel better and some sweets! She’s the cutest right?? As Marie had bought herself some of the fabric too we both agreed to make PJs for some #sewtwinning fun. I chose to make the Closet Case Carolyn top and the McCall’s 6659 trousers but turn them into shorts. I used sparkly silver piping to pick out the silver in the print. And found the cutest metallic painted shell buttons on eBay to coordinate!
This might seem crazy but for the Carolyn top I started with a size 6 in the shoulders graded up to 10 from the bust to the waist and then up to a 16 at the hip. Remember I have a surprising waist to hip ratio and I don’t believe in feeling snug while in loungewear! I’m currently 36:33:45. My McCall’s shorts are size 14. I made my own cuffs for the sleeves and short hems to maximise piping and tried my best with pattern placement… This pattern is hungry on a 45″ wide fabric. Marie nailed the pockets on her pyjamas of course. I’m jealous obviously. Everything is finished inside with zesty overlocked seams for a secret dash of sunshine.
Now I’m rather shy about my thighs but this next cropped shot is acceptable as you’ll want to see the bottoms on.
Now comes the dreaded back shot! The things I do for you guys eh?
It’s a funny fabric weight; somewhere between a loose cotton weave and a single gauze so it has a pretty crinkled texture and lovely soft hand. Marie thinks it might be seersucker. It’s totally opaque either way. Perfect for pyjamas! Marie got it from Leicester Market so I imagine it was fair price as well. It’s important with textured fabric like this that you embrace the wrinkles. Press the entire thing super flat when it’s not going to last is a waste of your time and will likely throw off your fit and finish.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures, and don’t forget to join the Pictionary Pyjama Party on Saturday 25th!
Oh lemon print fabric how I love you. This is my third dress made from lemon fabric. The second made into New Look 6587 my delightfully ’90s pattern.
My pretty sateen is from B&M fabrics in Leeds last year but you can also get it here and the buttons are ebay. They’re so pretty I added two big patch pockets with buttons on them as well.
I made view E without the trim in a straight size 12. The skirt is barely gathered which I find quite flattering and works well in this style of fabric. I also added 2″ inch to the length for midi coverage. A tie belt cinches the dress perfectly.
There’s something magic about this dress, it instantly lifts my mood everytime I put it on. Oh and course I had to break out my lemon earrings for these photos! They are the best pair I’ve bought in a long time (thank you H&M).
I think because its not tight but has enough shape and structure I don’t feel like I’m wearing a sack. I can eat as much as I like without feeling uncomfortable and it fits me regardless of my fluctuating weight.
What else to add? Well I have two more lemon prints in my stash but I do like the look of Primevera by Rifle Paper Co! Trying to sew my stash first though. There’s a burning desire to shop while cooped up but I have been trying to resist adding to my heaving sewing room. I’ve only bought a couple of patterns and some buttons so far.
My productivity is having random little spikes of activity during this situation. I photographed three dresses today and whipped up a few garments over Easter. But then I also sit for hours uninspired and exhausted! I imagine that is the same for a lot of sewists. I’d love to hear how you’re coping.
When I visited New York a few years back I knew I wanted to go to the garment district and was lucky enough to go with some fantastic sewists. I met up with Karen, Sonja, Charlotte and Emma Jayne! Plus Peter joined us for a little bit too which was fantastic.
We headed to Mood Fabrics first. A project runway fave. It’s pretty overwhelming as there’s several floors and bolts are stacked so high you have to either know what you’re after or rummage. Swatch is uber adorable though! You can read more about my NY trip here.
In a bid to avoid panicking I decided to look for a pretty cotton eyelet as it’s so rare in the UK. The coral that I found was both gorgeous and reasonably priced so I got 2m. Now as is always the case… I should have got more for pattern matching but I made it work. It took 6 months to find the perfect lining then a full year where I painstakingly planned and cut out the dress. Then I put on too much weight to fit into the size I’d cut.
If I didn’t make enough of a song and dance about it at the time, 2019 was the year I finally visited Paris. And I wanted to finish this dress and take it with me. I had lost a little weight and I let out the seams and just got it to fit. We had quite a nightmare second day where after no sleep the night before we had to move out of our Airbnb so it was so fun wearing this dress to make me feel better on day 3. The weather was fantastic!!
I picked the By Hand London Anna dress because of the bust pleats that come up from the waist. This eyelet was too bulky for darts and the pleats don’t interrupt the pattern too much. I hand gathered the skirt as it was too bulky to baste stitch and I’m pretty pleased with the results. To do this you pin the seams and CF/CB points, then pin the halfway points between those pins and so on until you’re only hand gathering very small sections of around 2″ and you can keep things even.View this post on Instagram
I’m VERY pleased with the pattern matching at the invisible zip. I love pattern matching and try to indulge every so often in a tricky match. Isn’t this video hypnotising!?
Here’s a brief guide for this symmetrical fabric which needs to match vertically and horizontally across an invisible zipper:First I pin the left hand side back bodice first with the CB seam allowance on the pattern piece folded under. The folded edge sits straight down the centre of the motifs.
Then I unfold the seam allowance and cut out the whole piece. See how the motif looks at the centre back below?
I then repeat for the right by laying the left cut piece on top of my fabric to find an exact matching location then line up my right hand side back bodice and move the cut left bodice out of the way.
I ensure that my folded pattern edge is again straight down the centre before unfolding the seam allowance and cutting out the right hand side bodice.
When installing the invisible zip in the centre back it can help to mark the seam allowance in water soluble pencil and baste the zip in place to achieve the perfect match. This method works for centre sewn regular zippers but you need a different method for a lapped zipper. This approach also works for printed fabrics like florals or scene prints.
I hope you liked the dress and tutorial. I’m hoping to get some wear out of it this spring and summer somehow!